The University of New Hampshire (UNH) is preparing to offer absentee voting opportunities on campus during the month of October for the upcoming general election.
The three-day event, run by Durham election officials, will take place at Huddleston Hall on Thursday, Oct. 8, from 2-6 p.m.; Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2-6 p.m.; and Saturday, Oct. 24, from 12-4 p.m. There is an opportunity for approximately 350 students that live in a residence hall, house, or apartment in Durham, to participate. Students are required to pre-register on the UNH votes page on the UNH website. Pre-registration has not yet started, but students will be notified when the option is available.
At Huddleston Hall, “there will be the opportunity to register to vote, request an absentee ballot, and complete the ballot in compliance with election state law,” UNH spokesperson Erika Mantz said in an email. These events are being held to ensure voting is “as safe as possible,” she said, meaning reducing density at the polls on Election Day in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In addition to these on-campus events, students can make other efforts to reduce crowding on Election Day such as
: requesting and returning absentee ballots by mail on the town of Durham website, requesting and completing an absentee ballot before the election, or registering early to reduce the amount of time spent at the polls on Election Day.
Students that have yet to register in Durham can do so in the Town Clerk’s office from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, and until 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 5.
General election for voters registered in Durham takes place at Oyster River High School (ORHS), from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3. The last day to register is Sunday, Oct. 25, although same-day registration is available on Nov. 3. For additional information on Durham’s voting laws, or to request an absentee ballot, voters can visit the election information page on the town of Durham website.
College students in New Hampshire have the option to vote within their hometown or the home they’ve established in college. A piece of mail with a Durham address, a Durham rent statement or residence hall address that is listed in Webcat can be used to provide proof of residency in Durham. If a student lacks any of the necessary identification, they can complete an affidavit attesting to these qualifications instead.
For more details on registering Durham as a student domicile, visit this link from the New Hampshire Secretary of State for the official document on requirements for voting in New Hampshire.
The town of Durham is also emphasizing the importance of University of New Hampshire students to vote by absentee ballot in order to make the polls safer on November 3rd.
Town Administrator Todd Selig said encouraging voters to vote by absentee ballot is the “safest possible way,” to go about this election and keep everyone as healthy as possible. Selig said big election years in Durham typically include a lot of new student voters, and in past elections, he said, Durham has registered as many as 4,500 new voters on Election Day, and have processed anywhere from 9,000 to 12,000 voters in total on any given Election day.
He said with these numbers in mind, the town has attempted to increase outreach ahead of time and make it accessible for students to either register at the Town Clerk’s office beforehand or via an absentee ballot to try and decrease congestion at the polls.
Similarly to how the town prepared for the state primary in Sept., Supervisor of the Checklist Ann Shump said they have all the necessary protection equipment, such as sneeze guards, to bring to ORHS. She said same-day voter registration will take place in the school’s multi-purpose room while voting will take place in the gym as per usual. Due to the necessary social distancing, lines will be longer than usual.
In terms of ballots requested, Shump said the town has received requests for as many as 2,400 absentee ballots, which is “far above” other years.
Durham administration said they are encouraging students to do their part especially in this election – doing more than just waking up on the day and going to vote in person – to help decrease in-person turnout.
“Students are part of our community, and need to help keep us safe as well as each other,” Shump said. “Everyone who came into the polling place at the primary, whether they were working or voting, wore a mask. We expect the same will happen at the general election, even though the numbers will be much larger.”